Our Responsibility to Our Mother
In forgetting nature, we are walking toward our own death.
At times, people have told me about experiencing a sensation of imbalance, similar to vertigo. This can be due to the disturbance of tiny particles in the ears. Due to mankind’s selfishness and indiscriminate actions, Nature has similarly become out of balance. The situation is serious. We need to become as alert as if we were standing at gunpoint. Only then can we survive.
I grew up in a very poor fishing village. The people there lived off daily wages. They rarely got to eat every day. As a child, I used to go to neighboring houses to collect food scraps to feed to our cows. When I went to one house, the woman there told me she didn’t have any because she hadn’t been able to cook anything that day. I asked the reason, and she said her husband could not find any work and therefore could not buy any food. She explained that he had recently walked 10 kilometers to borrow money but didn’t have any luck. On the way back, in the moonlight, he noticed a turtle laying eggs on the seashore. After laying its eggs, the turtle returned to the sea, and the husband had taken a few of the eggs and returned home. They boiled the eggs and fed their children. That had been their last real meal.
As the lady was narrating this story, one of their children asked the father, “Daddy, how many eggs does a turtle lay?” The father told her that a turtle lays more than a hundred eggs. “But you only brought a few eggs. Why didn’t you bring more?” The father explained, “My child, just imagine how sad your mother and I would be if we lost all of you. All those eggs are the turtle’s babies. If I took all the eggs, imagine how sad she would be? The mother and father turtle would never be able to bear the loss of all their children. Also, their entire family would be destroyed. We have to leave a few eggs behind so that more turtles are born and the species continues.”
“Due to mankind’s selfishness and indiscriminate actions, Nature has similarly become out of balance. The situation is serious. We need to become as alert as if we were standing at gunpoint. Only then can we survive.” — Amma
Even with his family going through such hard times, the father was still thinking about the grief of the turtles and how to sustain the species. People back then would compassionately consider other living beings even in the midst of their own suffering. They only took what they needed from Nature. The rest was offered back. We must always give at least as much as we take. Only then will the balance in Nature be maintained. This was the mindset of our forefathers. These days people even export these turtles for money and meat.
Nature is our first mother. She nurtures us throughout our lives. Our birthmother may allow us to sit on her lap for a couple of years, but Mother Nature patiently bears our weight our entire life. She sings us to sleep, feeds us and caresses us. Just as a child is obligated to his birthmother, we should all feel an obligation and responsibility toward Mother Nature. If we forget this responsibility, it is equal to forgetting our own self. If we forget Nature, we will cease to exist. To do so is to walk toward our own death.
In fact, in the old days, there was no specific need for environmental preservation because protecting Nature was part of worshiping God and life itself. More than remembering “God,” people used to love and serve Nature and society. They saw the Creator through the creation. They loved, worshiped and protected Nature as the visible form of God. We should try to reawaken this attitude.
When a man cuts down a tree, he is actually making his own coffin. It is not enough to plant one tree for each one he cuts down. He should plant at least 50. A small sapling cannot bring about the same amount of purification that a huge tree does. Even 10 saplings cannot replace the purification brought about by one tree. If we cannot see Nature as divine and protect it based out of this elevated perspective, then we should at least do so out of a desire for self-preservation.
“Nature is our first mother. She nurtures us throughout our lives. Our birthmother may allow us to sit on her lap for a couple of years, but Mother Nature patiently bears our weight our entire life. She sings us to sleep, feeds us and caresses us. Just as a child is obligated to his birthmother, we should all feel an obligation and responsibility toward Mother Nature.” — Amma
There is nothing insignificant in God’s creation; every plant, animal, insect, microbe has its own place and purpose. If a plane’s engine breaks down, the plane will not be able to fly. In fact, the absence of just a single vital screw can have the same effect. It is the same with Nature; even honeybees and ants have their own special role to play. Isn’t it from the pollination by honeybees that we get fruit and vegetables? Losing sight of this truth, we are using pesticides that are affecting bees’ memory. Honeybees used to fly as far as three kilometers to collect pollen before returning to their hives. Due to the pesticides, they are now forgetting their way home and are perishing. We need more awareness when it comes to using such poisons. People should also start planting flowering trees and cultivating beehives.
There is a rhythm to everything in creation — an undeniable relationship between the entire universe and every living creature. The universe is like a vast interconnected network. If a net is shaken in one corner, the vibration is felt throughout. Similarly, all of our actions reverberate throughout creation. We are not individual islands but links of a common chain. We cannot be like the person sitting on the 10th floor who hears shouting that the ground floor is on fire and says, “It’s only the ground floor. Let the people down there deal with it.” We should realize that the fire will soon spread and our floor will also be engulfed in flames. To ignore this reality is to dig our own grave.
We cannot wait for others to change. If we do, nothing will happen. Even if others do not change, we should be willing to do so. We need to do what we can.
Those who have previously built a 3,000-square-foot house and want to build in the future should build one that is only 1,500 square feet. Those who want to build a 1,000-square foot home should bring it down to 500. In this way, we can save trees, water, electricity and other resources. Also, carpooling can save fuel. In small ways like this, we can bring about changes, one step at a time.
Imagine that there is huge polluted lake. We should not become dejected wondering how we, who are just one person, can clean it. We should do what we can. Then, the next person should clean it up as much as he can. If this is our attitude, many people will join and eventually the entire lake will be clean. We should not withdraw in dejection. We should put in effort. Carpooling, keeping honeybees, planting trees, cleaning the environment, recycling waste and growing vegetables — all these are things all of us can do that help.
The current situation is dire, but we should do what we can. If we really want to, we can create a heaven on earth, but to do so, we should first create heaven within ourselves. I pray to the Supreme to grace us with the blessings to do so.
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) is a world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader. Amma is the head of Embracing the World, a multi-national collective of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to providing food, clothing and shelter for the poor and needy. Every day thousands of people come to seek Amma’s solace, spiritual wisdom and blessings, which she gives in the form of motherly hug.